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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Media black out of protests during Narendra Modi's visit to Karnataka signals bad for Indian media, opposing views must not be muzzled

BJP leader Narendra Modi was recently in Karnataka as part of his ongoing nationwide tours to address rallies in different parts of the country.

No doubt, there was enthusiasm among Modi's fans in Bangalore [now Bengaluru]. He does have a strong support among sections of the society.

Definitely, as a Prime Minister [PM] aspirant, he should get the due coverage.

But surprisingly, TV channels and newspapers turned a blind eye towards the demonstrations against him. These protests were also quite colourful. Some people had dressed in black as a mark of protest and some others had placards in their hands with messages in English [ like Modi, Go Back] and Kannada.

While his rally was reported at length in print and electronic media, the dozen odd groups and organisations ranging from farmers to Dalits, communists to Karnataka's local organisations, which held the demonstrations, were not shown at all.

That's not fair journalism. Ignoring protesters who are against Narendra Modi's politics or BJP, should have been given a few seconds in the TV coverage.

Even just a photo or a single column news in English or vernacular newspapers would have shown that journalists are showing both sides.

But this near total blackout raises serious questions. Its not healthy for our society either. Fortunately, among the 25-30 channels, there are still one or two which show the OTHER SIDE. Else, we don't get the view of those who are NOT IN LINE.

I must say that there were lakhs at the venue to hear Modi speak. But the hundreds or few thousands with an alternative voice should also be heard and seen. There was nothing in the news on the particular day about these protests.

I waited, even the next day, nothing came out in print or on TV. Journalists shouldn't take sides. They should report things and present both the sides of the picture. Already, there are disturbing reports about how owners in certain TV channels have told their employers to stop doing 'critical stories' about Modi.

At a recent rally in another state capital, the attendance was thin. Barely, 10% of the ground was full. Still, TV cameras just focused on the portion that had crowd. It was Narendra Modi rally and hence they didn't apparently want to show the lack of crowd.

Why? Isn't that a news? The next day some journalists did write about it on blogs and papers. But it was strange to see how cameramen didn't focus on the empty ground or talking about just 5,000-7,000 participants in the public meeting.

There is also clear instruction in this regard to Editorial staff in certain major TV channels.

If Indian citizens want to vote for him, they will surely do this. But media mustn't lose its objectivity. If there is a wave, it will be visible.

Journalists don't need to create it or stop reporting the opposing views. That's why media is considered a pillar of democracy. Isn't it?

[These are photographs of the protests against Narendra Modi in Bengaluri, Karnataka on the day of his rally]